Just sleep in…
Teenagers need more sleep not less. Educators know this. Psychologists know this. Physicians know this. Parents know this. We all know this yet we continue to behave as if we do not. Why is that?
In school districts across the country, high schools open the earliest, followed by middle and elementary schools. Yet we know that factually, the adolescent brain works differently than the brains of younger children and adult. Sleep experts say that when kids move into puberty, they experience a sleep phase shift that makes it very difficult for their brains to drift off before 11 p.m. To make matters worse, those same brains will stay in sleep mode until almost 8 the next morning. The CDC says that two out of three teens get less than eight hours of sleep a night. There is research that says teens really need ten hours of sleep a night. If you go by that standard, only 10% of teens are getting the recommended amount of sleep.
It isn't just adolescence that makes teens so much fun to be with. Not having enough sleep yields grumpy, grouchy kids, just like the rest of us. But for teens the stakes are higher.
Sleepy teens experience more depression. They are also more apt to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to be bullies and get into fights. They are also more likely to get into car crashes if they are driving alone.
That’s not the half of it. Teachers of morning classes routinely complain about how hard it is to keep kids engaged. REM sleep is very important to the full benefits of sleep for anyone. Teens frequently miss that final REM cycle because they are getting up too early. It does not help that the teen addiction to blue light emitting technology just before bedtime doesn’t relax them but rather suppresses the body’s melatonin which is the sleep/wake hormone.
So with all this common sense, why are high schools almost always the early run for busses. Busses are the key issue. Most school systems run busses on shifts. High schools first, then followed by middle and lower schools. Why not just switch the routes? Some systems say that is too expensive. Some athletic directors say starting school later means ending school later; hence, practices will start and end in the dark, particularly in the winter months. Some families say the later ending of the school day will limit the time kids have for after school jobs. That position is often countered with a later ending to the school day will leave less time for kids to get into trouble.
The Seattle school district recently delayed the starting bell for high schools. The results were very positive. Students got extra sleep, grades improved, students were tardy less often and had fewer absences. Teachers and parents reported that kids had better attitudes and were more pleasant all around.
Sounds like the notion of starting high schools later is a win-win. Can’t understand why more districts jumping on it. Well maybe they are sleeping on it.